First Voyage on the Nile — The Starting — Description of the River and the Country — Meet a Hostile Vessel — A Naval Engagement — Difficulties and Dangers — Judicial Procedure — Messages from the King of Uganda — His Efforts to get us back — Desertion — The Wanyoro Troops — Kamrasi — Elephant–Stalking — Diabolical Possessions.
In five boats of five planks each, tied together and caulked with mbugu rags, I started with twelve Wanguana, Kasoro and his page-followers, and a small crew, to reach Kamrasi’s palace in Unyoro — goats, dogs, and kit, besides grain and dried meat, filling up the complement — but how many days it would take nobody knew. Paddles propelled these vessels, but the lazy crew were slow in the use of them, indulging sometimes in racing spurts, then composedly resting on their paddles whilst the gentle current drifted us along. The river, very unlike what it was from the Ripon Falls downward, bore at once the character of river and lake — clear in the centre, but fringed in most places with tall rush, above which the green banks sloped back like park lands. It was all very pretty and very interesting, and would have continued so, had not Kasoro disgraced the Union Jack, turning it to piratical purposes in less than one hour.
A party of Wanyoro, in twelve or fifteen canoes, made of single tree trunks, had come up the river to trade with the Wasoga, and having stored their vessels with mbugu, dried fish, plantains cooked and raw, pombe, and other things, were taking their last meal on shore before they returned to their homes. Kasoro seeing this, and bent on a boyish spree, quite forgetting we were bound for the very ports they were bound for, ordered our sailors to drive in amongst them, landed himself, and sent the Wanyoro flying before I knew what game was up, and then set to pillaging and feasting on the property of those very men whom it was our interest to propitiate, as we expected them shortly to be our hosts.
The ground we were on belonged to king Mtesa, being a dependency of Uganda, and it struck me as singular that Wanyoro should be found here; but I no sooner discovered the truth than I made our boatmen disgorge everything they had taken, called back the Wanyoro to take care of their things, and extracted a promise from Kasoro that he would not practise such wicked tricks again, otherwise we could not travel together. Getting to boat again, after a very little paddling we pulled in to shore, on the Uganda side, to stop for the night, and thus allowed the injured Wanyoro to go down the river before us. I was much annoyed by this interruption, but no argument would prevail on Kasoro to go on. This was the last village on the Uganda frontier, and before we could go any farther on boats it would be necessary to ask leave of Kamrasi’s frontier officer, N’yamyonjo, to enter Unyoro. The Wanguana demanded ammunition in the most imperious manner, whilst I, in the same tone, refused to issue any lest a row should take place and they then would desert, alluding to their dastardly desertion in Msalala, when Grant was attacked. If a fight should take place, I said they must flock to me at once, and ammunition, which was always ready, would be served out to them. They laughed at this, and asked, Who would stop with me when the fight began? This was making a jest of what I was most afraid of — that they would all run away.
I held a levee to decide on the best manner of proceeding. The Waganda wanted us to stop for the day and feel the way gently, arguing that etiquette demands it. Then, trying to terrify me, they said, N’yamyonjo had a hundred boats, and would drive us back to a certainty if we tried to force past them, if he were not first spoken with, as the Waganda had often tried the passage and been repulsed. On the other hand, I argued that Grant must have arrived long ago at Kamrasi’s, and removed all these difficulties for us; but, I said, if they would send men, let Bombay start at once by land, and we will follow in boats, after giving him time to say we are coming. This point gained after a hot debate, Bombay started at 10 a.m., and we not till 5 p.m., it being but one hour’s journey by water. The frontier line was soon crossed; and then both sides of the river, Usoga as well as Unyoro, belong to Kamrasi.
I flattered myself all my walking this journey was over, and there was nothing left but to float quietly down the Nile, for Kidgwiga had promised boats, on Kamrasi’s account, from Unyoro to Gani, where Petherick’s vessels were said to be stationed; but this hope shared the fate of so many others in Africa. In a little while an enormous canoe, full of well-dressed and well-armed men, was seen approaching us. We worked on, and found they turned, as if afraid. Our men paddled faster, they did the same, the pages keeping time playfully by beat of drum, until at last it became an exciting chase, won by the Wanyoro by their superior numbers. The sun was now setting as we approached N’yamyongo’s. On a rock by the river stood a number of armed men, jumping, jabbering, and thrusting with their spears, just as the Waganda do. I thought, indeed, they were Waganda doing this to welcome us; but a glance at Kasoro’s glassy eyes told me such was not the case, but, on the contrary, their language and gestures were threats, defying us to land.
The bank of the river, as we advanced, then rose higher, and was crowned with huts and plantations, before which stood groups and lines of men, all fully armed. Further, at this juncture, the canoe we had chased turned broadside on us, and joined in the threatening demonstrations of the people on shore. I could not believe them to be serious — thought they had mistaken us — and stood up in the boat to show myself, hat in hand. I said I was an Englishman going to Kamrasi’s, and did all I could, but without creating the slightest impression. They had heard a drum beat, they said, and that was a signal of war, so war it should be; and Kamrasi’s drums rattled up both sides the river, preparing everybody to arm. This was serious. Further, a second canoe full of armed men issued out from the rushes behind us, as if with a view to cut off our retreat, and the one in front advanced upon us, hemming us in. To retreat together seemed our only chance, but it was getting dark, and my boats were badly manned. I gave the order to close together and retire, offering ammunition as an incentive, and all came to me but one boat, which seemed so paralysed with fright, it kept spinning round and round like a crippled duck.
The Wanyoro, as they saw us retreating, were now heard to say, “They are women, they are running, let us at them;” whilst I kept roaring to my men, “Keep together — come for powder;” and myself loaded with small shot, which even made Kasoro laugh and inquire if it was intended for the Wanyoro. “Yes, to shoot them like guinea-fowl;” and he laughed again. But confound my men! they would not keep together, and retreat with me. One of those served with ammunition went as hard as he could go up stream to be out of harm’s way, and another preferred hugging the dark shade of the rushes to keeping the clear open, which I desired for the benefit of our guns. It was not getting painfully dark, and the Wanyoro were stealing on us, as we could hear, though nothing could be seen. Presently the shade-seeking boat was attacked, spears were thrown, fortunately into the river instead of into our men, and grappling-hooks were used to link the boats together. My men cried, “Help, Bana! they are killing us;” whilst I roared to my crew, “Go in, go in, and the victory will be ours;” but not a soul would — they were spell-bound to the place; we might have been cut up in detail, it was all the same to those cowardly Waganda, whose only action consisted in crying, “N’yawo! n’yawo!”— mother, mother, help us!
Three shots from the hooked boat now finished the action. The Wanyoro had caught a Tartar. Two of their men fell — one killed, one wounded. They were heard saying their opponents were not Waganda, it were better to leave them alone; and retreated, leaving us, totally uninjured, a clear passage up the river. But where was Bombay all this while! He did not return till after us, and then, in considerable excitement, he told his tale. He reached N’yamyongo’s village before noon, asked for the officer, but was desired to wait in a hut until the chief should arrive, as he had gone out on business; the villagers inquired, however, why we had robbed the Wanyoro yesterday, for they had laid a complaint against us. Bombay replied it was no fault of Bana’s, he did everything he could to prevent it, and returned all that the boatmen took.
These men then departed, and did not return until evening, when they asked Bombay, impudently, why he was sitting there, as he had received no invitation to spend the night; and unless he walked off soon they would set fire to his hut. Bombay, without the smallest intention of moving, said he had orders to see N’yamyonjo, and until he did so he would not budge. “Well,” said the people, “you have got your warning, now look our for yourselves;” and Bombay, with his Waganda escort, was left again. Drums then began to beat, and men to hurry to and fro with spears and shields, until at last our guns were heard, and, guessing the cause, Bombay with his Waganda escort rushed out of the hut into the jungle, and, without daring to venture on the beaten track, through thorns and thicket worked his way back to me, lame, and scratched all over with thorns.
Crowds of Waganda, all armed as if for war, came to congratulate us in the morning, jumping, jabbering, and shaking their spears at us, denoting a victory gained — for we had shot Wanyoro and no harm had befallen us. “But the road,” I cried, “has that been gained? I am not going to show my back. We must go again, for there is some mistake; Grant is with Kamrasi, and N’yamyongo cannot stop us. If you won’t go in boats, let us go by land to N’yamyongo’s, and the boats will follow after.” Not a soul, however, would stir. N’yamyongo was described as an independent chief, who listened to Kamrasi only when he liked. He did not like strange eyes to see his secret lodges on the N’yanza; and if he did not wish us to go down the river, Kamrasi’s orders would go for nothing. His men had now been shot; to go within his reach would be certain death. Argument was useless, boating slow, to send messages worse; so I gave in, turned my back on the Nile, and the following day (16th) came on the Luajerri.
Here, to my intense surprise, I heard that Grant’s camp was not far off, on its return from Kamrasi’s. I could not, rather would not, believe it, suspicious as it now appeared after my reverse. The men, however, were positive, and advised my going to king Mtesa’s — a ridiculous proposition, at once rejected; for I had yet to receive Kamrasi’s answer to our Queen, about opening a trade with England. I must ascertain why he despised Englishmen without speaking with them, and I could not believe Kamrasi would prove less avaricious than either Rumanika or Mtesa, especially as Rumanika had made himself responsible for our actions. We slept that night near Kari, the Waganda eating two goats which had been drowned in the Luajerri; and the messenger-page, having been a third time to the palace and back again, called to ask after our welfare, on behalf of his king, and remind us about the gun and brandy promised.
17th and 18th. — The two following days were spent wandering about without guides, trying to keep the track Grant had taken after leaving us, crossing at first a line of small hills, then traversing grass and jungle, like the dak of India. Plantain-gardens were frequently met, and the people seemed very hospitably inclined, though they complained sadly of the pages rudely rushing into every hut, seizing everything they could lay their hands on, and even eating the food which they had just prepared for their own dinners, saying, in a mournful manner, “If it were not out of respect for you we should fight those little rascals, for it is not the king’s guest nor his men who do us injury, but the king’s own servants, without leave or licence.” I observed that special bomas or fences were erected to protect these villages against the incursions of lions. Buffaloes were about, but the villagers cautioned us not to shoot them, holding them as sacred animals; and, to judge from the appearance of the country, wild animals should abound, were it not for the fact that every Mganda seems by instinct to be a sportsman.
At last, after numerous and various reports about Grant, we heard his drums last night, but we arrived this morning just in time to be too late. He was on his march back to the capital of Uganda, as the people had told us, and passed through N’yakinyama just before I reached it. What had really happened I knew not, and was puzzled to think. To insist on a treaty, demanding an answer, to the Queen, seemed the only chance left; so I wrote to Grant to let me know all about it, and waited the result. He very obligingly came himself, said he left Unyoro after stopping there an age asking for the road without effect, and left by the orders of Kamrasi, thinking obedience the better policy to obtain our ends. Two great objections had been raised against us; one was that we were reported to be cannibals, and the other that our advancing by two roads at once was suspicious, the more especially so as the Waganda were his enemies; had we come from Rumanika direct, there would have been no objection to us.
When all was duly considered, it appeared evident to me that the great king of Unyoro, “the father of all the kings,” was merely a nervous, fidgety creature, half afraid of us because we were attempting his country by the unusual mode of taking two routes at once, but wholly so of the Waganda, who had never ceased plundering his country for years. As it appeared that he would have accepted us had we come by the friendly route of Kisuere, a further parley was absolutely necessary, and the more especially so, as now we were all together and in Uganda, which, in consequence, must relieve him from the fear of our harbouring evil designs against him. No one present, however, could be prevailed on to go to him in the capacity of ambassador, as the frontier officer had warned the Wageni or guests that, if they ever attempted to cross the border again, he was bound in duty, agreeably to the orders of his king, to expel them by force; therefore, should the Wageni attempt it after this warning, their first appearance would be considered a casus belli; and so the matter rested for the day.
To make the best of a bad bargain, and as N’yakinyama was “eaten up,” we repaired to Grant’s camp to consult with Budja; but Budja was found firm and inflexible against sending men up to Unyoro. His pride had been injured by the rebuffs we had sustained. He would wait here three or four days as I proposed, to see what fortune sent us, if I would not be convinced that Kamrasi wished to reject us, and he would communicate with his king in the meantime, but nothing more. Here was altogether a staggerer: I would stop for three or four days, but if Kamrasi would not have us by that time, what was to be done? Would it be prudent to try Kisuere now Baraka had been refused the Gani route? or would it not be better still for me to sell Kamrasi altogether, by offering Mtesa five hundred loads of ammunition, cloth and beads, if he would give us a thousand Waganda as a force to pass through the Masai to Zanzibar, this property to be sent back by the escort from the coast? Kamrasi would no doubt catch it if we took this course, but it was expensive.
Thus were we ruminating, when lo, to our delight, as if they had been listening to us, up came Kidgwiga, my old friend, who, at Mtesa’a place, had said Kamrasi would be very glad to see me, and Vittagura, Kamrasi’s commander-in-chief, to say their king was very anxious to see us, and the Waganda might come or not as they liked. Until now, the deputation said, Kamrasi had doubted Budja’s word about our friendly intentions, but since he saw us withdrawing from his country, those doubts were removed. The N’yamswenge, they said — meaning, I thought, Petherick — was still at Gani; no English or others on the Nile ever expressed a wish to enter Unyoro, otherwise they might have done so; and Baraka had left for Karague, carrying off an ivory as a present from Kamrasi.
21st. — I ordered the march to Unyoro; Budja, however, kept brooding over the message sent to the Waganda, to the effect that they might come or not as they liked, and considering us with himself to have all been treated “like dogs,” begged me to give him my opinion as to what course he had better pursue; for he must, in the first instance, report the whole circumstances to the king, and could not march at once. This was a blight on our prospects, and appeared very vexatious, in the event of Budja waiting for an answer, which, considering Mtesa had ordered his Wakungu to accompany us all the way to Gani, might stop our march altogether.
I therefore argued that Kamrasi’s treatment of us was easily accounted for: he heard of us coming by two routes from an enemy’s country, and was naturally suspicious of us; that had now been changed by our withdrawing, and he invited us to him. Without doubt, his commander-in-chief was never very far away, and followed on our heels. Such precaution was only natural and reasonable on Kamrasi’s part, and what had been done need not alarm any one. “If you do your duty properly, you will take us at once into Unyoro, make your charge over to these men, and return or not as you like; for in doing so you will have fulfilled both Mtesa’s, and Kamrasi’s orders at once.” “Very good,” says Budja, “let it be so; for there is great wisdom in your words: but I must first send to my king, for the Waganda villagers have struck two of your men with weapons” (this had happened just before my arrival here), “and this is a most heinous offence in Uganda, which cannot be overlooked. Had it been done with a common stick, it could have been overlooked; but the use of weapons is an offence, and both parties must go before the king.” This, of course, was objected to on the plea that it was my own affair. I was king of the Wanguana, and might choose to dispense with the attendance. The matter was compromised, however, on the condition that Budja should march across the border to-morrow, and wait for the return of these men and for further orders on the Unyoro side.
The bait took. Budja lost sight of the necessity there was for his going to Gani to bring back a gun, ammunition, and some medicine — that is to say, brandy — for his king; and sent his men off with mine to tell Mtesa all our adventures — our double repulse, the intention to wait on the Unyoro side for further orders, and the account of some Waganda having wounded my men. I added my excuses for Kamrasi, and laid a complaint against Mtesa’s officers for having defrauded us out of ten cows, five goats, six butter, and sixty mbugu. It was not that we required these things, but I knew that the king had ordered them to be given to us, and I thought it right we should show that his officers, if they professed to obey his orders, had peculated. After these men had started, some friends of the villager who had been apprehended on the charge of assailing my men, came and offered Budja five cows to overlook the charge; and Budja, though he could not overlook it when I pleaded for the man, asked me to recall my men. Discovering that the culprit was a queen’s man, and that the affair would cause bad blood at court should the king order the man’s life to be taken, I tried to do so, but things had gone too far.
Again the expedition marched on in the right direction. We reached the last village on the Uganda frontier, and there spent the night. Here Grant shot a nsunnu buck. The Wanguana mutinied for ammunition, and would not lift a load until they got it, saying, “Unyoro is a dangerous country,” though they had been there before without any more than they now had in pouch. The fact was, my men, in consequence of the late issues on the river, happened to have more than Grant’s men, and every man must have alike. The ringleader, unfortunately for himself, had lately fired at a dead lion, to astonish the Unyoro, and his chum had fired a salute, which was contrary to orders; for ammunition was at a low ebb, and I had done everything in my power to nurse it. Therefore, as a warning to the others, the guns of these two were confiscated, and a caution given that any gun in future let off, either by design or accident, would be taken.
To-day I felt very thankful to get across the much-vexed boundary-line, and enter Unyoro, guided by Kamrasi’s deputation of officers, and so shake off the apprehensions which had teased us for so many days. This first march was a picture of all the country to its capital: an interminable forest of small trees, bush, and tall grass, with scanty villages, low huts, and dirty-looking people clad in skins; the plantain, sweet potato, sesamum, and ulezi (millet) forming the chief edibles, besides goats and fowls; whilst the cows, which are reported to be numerous, being kept, as everywhere else where pasture-lands are good, by the wandering, unsociable Wahuma are seldom seen. No hills, except a few scattered cones, disturb the level surface of the land, and no pretty views ever cheer the eye. Uganda is now entirely left behind; we shall not see its like again; for the further one leaves the equator, and the rain-attracting influences of the Mountains of the Moon, vegetation decreases proportionately with the distance.
Fortunately the frontier-village could not feed so large a party as ours, and therefore we were compelled to move farther on, to our great delight, through the same style of forest acacia, cactus, and tall grass, to Kidgwiga’s gardens, where we no sooner arrived than Mtesa’s messenger-page, with a party of fifty Waganda, dropped in, in the most unexpected manner, to inquire after “his royal master’s friend, Bana.” The king had heard of the fight upon the river, and thought the Wanguana must be very good shots. He still trusted we would not forget the gun and ammunition, but, above all, the load of stimulants, for he desired that above all things on earth. This was the fourth message to remind us of these important matters which we had received since leaving his gracious presence, and each time brought by the same page. While the purpose of the boy’s coming with so many men was not distinctly known, the whole village and camp were in a state of great agitation, Budja fearing lest the king had some fault to find with his work, and the Wanyoro deeming it a menace of war, whilst I was afraid they might take fright and stop our progress.
But all went well in the end; Massey’s log, which I have mentioned as a present I intended for Mtesa, was packed up, and the page departed with it. Some of Rumanika’s men, who came into Unyoro with Baraka, with four of K’yengo’s, were sent to call us by Kamrasi. Through Rumanika’s men it transpired that he had stood security for our actions, else, with the many evil reports of our being cannibals and such-like, which had preceded our coming here, we never should have gained admittance to the country. The Wanyoro, who are as squalid-looking as the Wanyamuezi, and almost as badly dressed, now came about us to hawk ivory ornaments, brass and copper twisted wristlets, tobacco, and salt, which they exchanged for cowries, with which they purchase cows from the Waganda. As in Uganda, all the villagers forsook their huts as soon as they heard the Wageni (guests) were coming; and no one paid the least attention to the traveller, save the few head-men attached to the escort, or some professional traders.
25th to 28th. — I had no sooner ordered the march than Vittagura counter-ordered it, and held a levee to ascertain, as he said, if the Waganda were to go back; for though Kamrasi wished to see us, he did not want the Waganda. It was Kamrasi’s orders that Budja should tell this to his “child the Mkavia,” meaning Mtesa; for when the Waganda came the first time to see him, three of his family died; and when they came the second time, three more died; and as this rate of mortality was quite unusual in his family circle, he could only attribute it to foul magic. The presence of people who brought such results was of course by no means desirable. This neat message elicited with a declaration of the necessity of Budja’s going to Gani with us, and a response from the commander-in-chief, probably to terrify the Waganda, that although Gani was only nine days’ journey distant from Kamrasi’s palace, the Gani people were such barbarians, they would call a straight-haired man a magician, and any person who tied his mbugu in a knot upon his shoulder, or had a full set of teeth as the Waganda have, would be surely killed by them. Finally, we must wait two days, to see if Kamrasi would see us or not. Such was Unyoro diplomacy.
An announcement of a different kind immediately followed. The king had heard that I gave a cow to Vittagura and Kidgwiga when they first came to me in Uganda, and wished the Wanyamuezi to ascertain if this was true. Of course, I said they were my guests in Uganda, and if they had been wise they would have eaten their cow on the spot; what was that to Kamrasi? It was a pity he did not treat us as well who have come into his country at his own invitation, instead of keeping us starving in this gloomy wilderness, without a drop of pombe to cheer the day; — why could not he let us go on? He wanted first to hear if the big Mzungu, meaning myself, had really come yet. All fudge!
Three days were spent in simply waiting for return messages on both sides, and more might have been lost in the same way, only we amused Vittagura and gave him confidence by showing our pictures, looking-glass, scissors, knives, etc., when he promised a march in the morning, leaving a man behind to bring on the Wanguana sent to Mtesa’s, it being the only alternative which would please Budja; for he said there was no security for life in Unyoro, where every Mkungu calls himself the biggest man, and no true hospitality is to be found.
The next two days took us through Chagamoyo to Kiratosi, by the aid of the compass; for the route Kamrasi’s men took differed from the one which Budja knew, and he declared the Wanyoro were leading us into a trap, and would not be convinced we were going on all right till I pulled out the compass and confirmed the Wanyoro. We were anything but welcomed at Kiratosi, the people asking by what bad luck we had come there to eat up their crops; but in a little while they flocked to our doors and admired our traps, remarking that they believed each iron box contained a couple of white dwarfs, which we carry on our shoulders, sitting straddle-legs, back to back, and they fly off to eat people whenever they get the order. One of these visitors happened to be the sister of one of my men, named Baruti, who no sooner recognised her brother, than, without saying a word, she clasped her head with her hands, and ran off, crying, to tell her husband what she had seen. A spy of Kamrasi dropped the report that the Wanguana were returning from Mtesa’s, and hurried on to tell the king.
31st. — Some Waganda hurrying in, confirmed the report of last night, and said the Wanguana, footsore, had been left at the Uganda frontier, expecting us to return, as Mtesa, at the same time that he approved highly of my having sent men back to inform him of Kamrasi’s conduct, begged we would instantly return, even if found within one march of Kamrasi’s, for he had much of importance to tell his friend Bana. The message continued to this effect: I need be under no apprehensions about the road to the coast, for he would give me as many men as I liked; and, fearing I might be short of powder, he had sent some with the Wanguana. Both Wanguana were by the king given women for their services, and an old tin cartridge-box represented Mtesa’s card, it being an article of European manufacture, which, if found in the possession of any Mganda, would be certain death to him. Finally, all the houses and plantains where my men were wounded had been confiscated.
When this message was fully delivered, Budja said we must return without a day’s delay. I, on the contrary, called up Kidgwiga. I did not like my men having been kept prisoners in Uganda, and pronounced in public that I would not return. It would be an insult to Kamrasi my doing so, for I was now in his “house” at his own invitation. I wished Bombay would go with him (Kidgwiga) at once to his king, to say I had hoped, when I sent Budja with Mabruki, in the first instance, conveying a friendly present from Mtesa, which was done at my instigation, and I found Kamrasi acknowledged it by a return-present, that there would be no more fighting between them. I said I had left England to visit these countries for the purpose of opening up a trade, and I had no orders to fight my way except with the force of friendship. That Rumanika had accepted my views Kamrasi must be fully aware by Baraka’s having visited him; and that Mtesa did the same must also be evident, else he would never have ordered his men to accompany me to Gani; and I now fondly trusted that these Waganda would be allowed to go with me, when, by the influence of trade, all animosity would cease, and friendly relations be restored between the two countries.
This speech was hardly pronounced when Kajunju, a fine athletic man, dropped suddenly in, nodded a friendly recognition to Budja, and wished to know what the Waganda meant by taking us back, for the king had heard of their intention last night; and when told by Budja his story, and by Kidgwiga mine, he vanished like a shadow. Budja, now turning to me, said, “If you won’t go back, I shall; for the orders of Mtesa must always be obeyed, else lives will be lost; and I shall tell him that you, since leaving his country, and getting your road, have quite forgotten him.” “If you give such a message as that,” I said, “you will tell a falsehood. Mtesa has no right to order me out of another man’s house, to be an enemy with one whose friendship I desire. I am not only in honour bound to speak with Kamrasi, but I am also bound to carry out the orders of my country just as much as you are yours; moreover, I have invited Petherick to come to Kamrasi’s by a letter from Karague, and it would be ill-becoming in me to desert him in the hands of an enemy, as he would then certainly find Kamrasi to be if I went back now.” Budja then tried the coaxing dodge, saying, “There is much reason in your words, but I am sorry you do not listen to the king, for he loves you as a brother. Did you not go about like two brothers — walking, talking, shooting, and even eating together? It was the remark of all the Waganda, and the king will be so vexed when he finds you have thrown him over. I did not tell you before, but the king says, ‘How can I answer Rumanika if Kamrasi injures Bana? Had I known Kamrasi was such a savage, I would not have let Bana go there; and I should now have sent a forge to take him away, only that some accident might arise from it by Kamrasi’s taking fright; the road even to Gani shall be got by force if necessary.’” Then, finding me still persistent, Budja turned again and threatened us with the king’s power, saying, “If you choose to disobey, we will see whether you ever get the road to Gani or not; for Kamrasi is at war on all sides with his brothers, and Mtesa will ally himself with them at any moment that he wishes, and where will you be then?”
Saying this, Budja walked off, muttering that our being here would much embarrass Mtesa’s actions; whilst my Wanguana, who had been attentively listening, like timid hares, made up their minds to leave me, and tried, through Bombay, to obtain a final interview with me, saying they knew Mtesa’s power, and disobedience to him would only end in taking away all chance of escape. In reply, I said I would not listen to them, as I had seen enough of them to know it was no use speaking to a pack of unreasonable cowards, having tried it so often before; but I sent a message requesting them, if they did desert me at last, to leave my guns; and, further, added an intimation that, as soon as they reached the coast, they would be put into prison for three years. The scoundrels insolently said “tuende setu” (let’s be off), rushed to the Waganda drums, and beat the march.
1st. — Early in the morning, as Budja drummed the home march, I called him up, gave him a glass rain-gauge as a letter for Mtesa, and instructed him to say I would send a man to Mtesa as soon as I had seen Kamrasi about opening the road; that I trusted he would take all the guns from the deserters and keep them for me, but the men themselves I wished transported to an island on the N’yanza, for I could never allow such scoundrels again to enter my camp. It was the effect of desertions like these that prevented any white men visiting these countries. This said, the Waganda all left us, taking with them twenty-eight Wanguana, armed with twenty-two carbines. Amongst them was the wretched governess, Manamaka, who had always thought me a wonderful magician, because I possessed, in her belief, an extraordinary power in inclining all the black kings’ hearts to me, and induced them to give the roads no one before of my colour had ever attempted to use.
With a following reduced to twenty men, armed with fourteen carbines, I now wished to start for Kamrasi’s, but had not even sufficient force to lift the loads. A little while elapsed, and a party of fifty Wanyoro rushed wildly into camp, with their spears uplifted, and looked for the Waganda, but found them gone. The athletic Kajunju, it transpired, had returned to Kamrasi’s, told him our story, and received orders to snatch us away from the Waganda by force, for the great Mkamma, or king, was most anxious to see his white visitors; such men had never entered Unyoro before, and neither his father nor his father’s fathers had ever been treated with such a visitation; therefore he had sent on these fifty men to fall by surprise on the Waganda, and secure us. But again, in a little while, about 10 a.m., Kajunju, in the same wild manner, at the head of 150 warriors, with the soldier’s badge — a piece of mbugu or plantain-leaf tied round their heads, and a leather sheath on their spear-heads, tufted with cow’s-tail — rushed in exultingly, having found, to their delight, that there was no one left to fight with, and that they had gained an easy victory. They were certainly a wild set of ragamuffins — as different as possible from the smart, well-dressed, quick-of-speech Waganda as could be, and anything but prepossessing to our eyes. However, they had done their work, and I offered them a cow, wishing to have it shot before them; but the chief men, probably wishing the whole animal to themselves, took it alive, saying the men were all the king’s servants, and therefore could not touch a morsel.
Kamrasi expected us to advance next day, when some men would go on ahead to announce our arrival, and bring a letter which was brought with beads by Gani before Baraka’s arrival here. It was shown to Baraka in the hope that we would come by the Karague route, but not to Mabruki, because he came from Uganda. Kidgwiga informed us that Kamrasi never retaliated on Mtesa when he lifted Unyoro cows, though the Waganda keep their cattle on the border — which simply meant that he had not the power of doing so. The twenty remaining Wanguana, conversing over the sudden scheme of the deserters, proposed, on one side, sending for them, as, had they seen the Wanyoro arrive, they would have changed their minds; but the other side said, “What! those brutes who said we should all die here if we stayed, and yet dared not face the danger with us, should we now give them a helping hand? Never! We told them we would share our fate with Bana, and share it we will, for God rules everything: every man must die when his time comes.”
We marched for the first time without music, as the drum is never allowed to be beaten in Unyoro except when the necessities of war demand it, or for a dance. Wanyamuezi and Wanyoro, in addition to our own twenty men, carried the luggage, though no one carried more than the smallest article he could find. It was a pattern Unyoro march, of only two hours’ duration. On arrival at the end we heard that elephants had been seen close by. Grant and I then prepared our guns, and found a herd of about a hundred feeding on a plain of long grass, dotted here and there by small mounds crowned with shrub. The animals appeared to be all females, much smaller than the Indian breed; yet though ten were fired at, none were killed, and only one made an attempt to charge. I was with the little twin Manua at the time, when, stealing along under cover of the high grass, I got close to the batch and fired at the larges, which sent her round roaring. The whole of them then, greatly alarmed, packed together and began sniffing the air with their uplifted trunks, till, ascertaining by the smell of the powder that their enemy was in front of them, they rolled up their trunks and came close to the spot where I was lying under a mound. My scent then striking across them, they pulled up short, lifted their heads high, and looked down sideways on us. This was a bad job. I could not get a proper front shot at the boss of any of them, and if I had waited an instant we should both have been picked up or trodden to death; so I let fly at their temples, and instead of killing, sent the whole of them rushing away at a much faster pace than they came. After this I gave up, because I never could separate the ones I had wounded from the rest, and thought it cruel to go on damaging more. Thinking over it afterwards, I came to the conclusion I ought to have put in more powder; for I had, owing to their inferior size to the Indian ones, rather despised them, and fired at them with the same charge and in the same manner as I always did at rhinoceros. Though puzzled at the strange sound of the rifle, the elephants seldom ran far, packed in herd, and began to graze again. Frij, who was always ready at spinning a yarn, told us with much gravity that two of my men, Uledi and Wadi Hamadi, deserters, were possessed of devils (Phepo) at Zanzibar. Uledi, not wishing to be plagued by his Satanic majesty’s angels on the march, sacrificed a cow and fed the poor, according to the great Phepo’s orders, and had been exempted from it; but Wadi Hamadi, who preferred taking his chance, had been visited several times: once at Usui, when he was told the journey would be prosperous, only the devil wanted one man’s life, and one man would fall sick; which proved true, for Hassani was murdered, and Grant fell sick in Karague. The second time Wadi Hamadi saw the devil in Karague, and was told one man’s life would be required in Uganda, and such also was the case by Kari’s murder; and a third time, in Unyoro, he was possessed, when it was said that the journey would be prosperous but protracted.
3d. — Though we stormed every day at being so shamefully neglected and kept in the jungles, we could not get on, nor find out the truth of our position. I asked if Kamrasi was afraid of us, and looking into his magic horn; and was answered, “No; he is very anxious to see you, or he would not have sent six of his highest officers to look after you, and prevent the unruly peasantry from molesting you.” “Then by whose orders are we kept here?” “By Kamrasi’s.” “Why does Kamrasi keep us here?” “He thinks you are not so near, and men have gone to tell him.” “How did we come here from the last ground?” “By Kamrasi’s orders; for nothing can be done excepting by his orders.” “Then he must know we are here?” “He may not have seen the men we sent to him; for unless he shows in public no one can see him.” The whole affair gave us such an opinion of Kamrasi as induced us to think it would have served him right had we joined Mtesa and given him a thrashing. This, I said, was put in our power by an alliance with his refractory brothers; but Kidgwiga only laughed and said, “Nonsense! Kamrasi is the chief of all the countries round here — Usoga, Kidi, Chopi, Gani, Ulega, everywhere; he has only to hold up his hand and thousands would come to his assistance.” Kwibeya, the officer of the place, presented us with five fowls on the part of the king, and some baskets of potatoes.
4th. — We halted again, it was said, in order that Kwibeya might give us all the king had desired him to present. I sent Bombay off with a message to Kamrasi explaining everything, and begging for an early interview, as I had much of importance to communicate, and wished, of all things, to see the letter he had from Gani, as it must have come from our dear friends at home. Seven goats, flour, and plantains, were now brought to us; and as Kidgwiga begged for the flour without success, he flew into a fit of high indignation because these things were given and received without his having first been consulted. He was the big man and appointed go-between, and no one could dispute it. This was rather startling news to us, for Vittagura said he was commander-in-chief; Kajunju thought himself biggest, so did Kwibeya, and even Dr K’yengo’s men justified Budja’s speech.
5th and 6th. — Still another halt, with all sorts of excuses. Frij, it appeared, dreamt last night that the king of Uganda came to fight us for not complying with his orders, and that all my men ran away except Uledi and himself. This, according to the interpretation of the coast, would turn out the reverse, otherwise his head must be wrong, and, according to local science, should be set right again by actual cautery of the temples; and as Grant dreamt a letter came from Gani which I opened and ran away with, he thought it would turn out no letter at all, and therefore Kamrasi had been humbugging us. We heard that Bombay had shot a cow before Kamrasi and would not be allowed to return until he had eaten it.
At last we made a move, but only of two hours’ duration, through the usual forest, in which elephants walked about as if it were their park. We hoped at starting to reach the palace, but found we must stop here until the king should send for us. We were informed that doubtless he was looking into his Uganga, or magic horn, to discover what he had to expect from us; and he seemed as yet to have found no ground for being afraid of us. Moreover, it is his custom to keep visitors waiting on him in this way, for is he not the king of kings, the king of Kittara, which includes all the countries surrounding Unyoro?
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00